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TikTok Emails Reveal Employees Improperly Accessed User Data

Anastasia Boushee
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ByteDance, the parent company of Chinese social media app TikTok, said on Thursday that its employees had improperly accessed two journalists’ user data on the social media platform, according to the Wall Street Journal.

General Counsel Erich Andersen sent an email to employees revealing that several workers had searched for leaks of company information, misusing their authority to access the user data of a Financial Times reporter and a former BuzzFeed reporter.

According to Andersen, TikTok has fired all of the employees who were involved in the improper activities. The general counsel also noted that the company will be restructuring its Internal Audit and Risk Control department in order to remove all user data permissions to prevent something like this from happening in the future.

In another email to employees, ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo condemned the actions of the fired employees — stating that they had “seriously violated the company’s Code of Conduct.”

“We simply cannot take integrity risks that damage the trust of our users, employees, and stakeholders,” Rubo wrote. “We must exercise sound judgment in the choices we make and be sure they represent the principles we stand behind as a company.”

This news comes as TikTok has been under intense scrutiny in the United States. Numerous states have already banned government employees from using the app on official devices out of fear of spying from the Chinese Communist Party, and many federal lawmakers have proposed an outright ban on the app across the U.S.

Nebraska was the first state to ban TikTok on government devices. Other states that have banned TikTok use in some way include South Dakota, North Dakota, Maryland, South Carolina, Texas, New Hampshire, Utah, Louisiana, West Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, Idaho, Iowa, Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia and Montana.

The U.S. Senate has also voted to ban TikTok on government phones and devices.

A bipartisan bill has been introduced by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) to ban TikTok from operating in the United States entirely. The legislation is called the “Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act).”